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seat 60a

April 15, 2008

It might be unfashionable to say it, given the pasting it has had in the press recently, but British Airways, like Prada and Pret-A-Manger, is one of my favourite brands, As I join the scrum in the boarding lounge at Paris CDG on Saturday afternoon however, the brand loyalty starts to waver. With nowhere to sit and a mob of angry customers - many of whom had had their flights cancelled the day before - the shambolic boarding process makes Ryanair look slick.

BA, it seems, has done away with the protocol of allowing business class ticket holders to board the plane first. So I watch as a pale skinned woman in scarlet lipstick, bug-eye black shades and heels as high as the Gherkin - she might just as well have had ‘CELEBRITY’ stamped on her forehead in sixteen point type - is knocked back to the end of the very long queue by the hostile, rigorously chignoned woman in a BA uniform. We hover at the back together, for I have made the same mistake as DIta Van Teese (it takes me a while to recognise her, but that’s who it is.) In my case, I am poked in the ribs by a catatonic American man, who warns me ‘No queue hustling lady! Get in line like the rest of us.’

At Terminal 5 I wait with a forlorn group of people for my luggage to arrive. (Only eight of us it seems were reckless enough to check our bags in). During the seventy minute wait, I chat to an executive with a petroleum company, who has spent 19 hours trying to get from Paris to London via BA. She warns me not to use the lifts in T5 as apparently they break down so often that BA staff have been banned from using them.

And yet here I am on Tuesday afternoon, writing this in seat 60a en route to JFK and I have already forgiven BA, the main reason being its wonderfully erudite cabin staff.
‘Ooh, 60a!’ says the very camp steward as I board.
‘Is this a good seat then?’ I ask.
‘It's the hot seat,' he says with a wink. 'Right behind the pilots on the upper deck.’

Later he joins me for a chat and we talk about previous incumbents of 60a and other slebs he has carried. They include Naomi Campbell (the less said about her the better - I’ve had a run in with her myself and she's a piece of work), and Tom Ford (charming with a great presence and great taste in perfume.)

But he tells me ruefully that it has been a bad day for BA, referring to the fact that insurers will not offer cover for anyone passing through T5.
‘Well, I still love you,’ I say, as he hands me a customer survey.

My loyalty is rewarded a little later when he returns with an Anya Hindmarch velvet washbag and a pair of navy pyjamas from First Class. I know that it's deeply uncool to be overly interested in the free washbag, but this one, is definitely worth having, not least because anything that carries the Anya Hindmarch name is so desirable right now. Emptied of socks and earplugs it will make the perfect receptacle for jewellery or, as my steward pointed out, a very glamorous first aid kit.

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